[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2021.11.26"] [Round "1"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C88"] [WhiteElo "2782"] [BlackElo "2855"] [Annotator "samsh"] [PlyCount "89"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {[%evp 0,89,19,28,25,25,25,15,8,2,-10,-10,-2,1,8,-11,17,3,49,45,28,22,33,31,19, 19,19,19,19,19,19,11,16,23,39,14,26,28,27,-15,27,13,30,0,43,34,28,17,8,20,20,5, 0,-23,-21,0,22,6,0,0,22,-14,-14,-15,0,12,29,5,-9,17,0,-60,-85,-48,-55,-47,-63, -82,-86,1,0,0,34,11,11,11,19,20,20,20,12,20]} 1. e4 {Greetings everyone! This is Sam Shankland, and I will be with Chess.com throughout the duration of the World Championship match, annotating each and every game. I was on Magnus Carlsen's team in the past, helping him prepare for his second match with Anand and his match with Karjakin, but this time around I have no role on any side whatsoever, which means I can speak entirely freely as a complete spectator. The first game was an interesting affair, where both sides have things to be satisfied with and not satisfied with. In general, modern World Championship matches almost always start with two draws. When you are playing White and you don't know what is coming and Black gets to play his World Championship preparation for the first time, he almost always equalizes easily. Then, once games three and four come, the players tend to be able to put more pressure. This match has been different, as I don't believe Magnus fully equalized in game one. While this may be surprising and a bad sign for his preparation, it has to be said that before long, he was the only one who could think about winning. That has to speak in Magnus' favor and not be a confidence booster for Nepo. Without further ado, on to the game!} e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 {Magnus chooses the classical Spanish, much like he did against Karjakin. In both of his last two matches, he stuck with the same black repertoire vs 1.e4 all the way through. Based on how today went, and that the match is a little longer, I suspect he may deviate later on.} (3... Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Nc3) 4. Ba4 (4. Bxc6 $6 dxc6 5. d4 (5. Nxe5 $2 Qd4 6. Nf3 Qxe4+ 7. Qe2 Qxe2+ $17 8. Kxe2 {[%CAl Gh1e1,Ge2f1]})) 4... Nf6 5. O-O Be7 (5... Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. c3) 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. h3 $5 {All of this has been seen before many times, and now Magnus is the first to play a somewhat unusual move.} (8. c3 d6 (8... d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 $14) 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4) 8... Na5 $5 {[%mdl 512] This move is not too common, for obvious reasons. Black goes down a pawn but quickly forces through ...d5 and hopes his activity and bishop pair will be enough for it. The main moves are ...d6 and ...Bb7.} ( 8... d6) (8... Bb7) 9. Nxe5 {Now play takes on a very forcing character.} Nxb3 10. axb3 Bb7 11. d3 d5 12. exd5 Qxd5 {[%csl Ge7,Gg2][%CAl Gb7d5,Rd5g2]} 13. Qf3 {[%csl Ge7][%CAl Re1e7] This position had only seen play in four human games in the past, with White winning all four. But, it has been a much hotter topic in correspondence chess.} Bd6 14. Kf1 {Nepo blitzed this move out, he was surely still in preparation. We have now left human practice.} (14. Qxd5 Nxd5 15. Bd2 f6 16. Nf3 Ne7 17. Nd4 c5 $44 18. Ne2 Ng6 19. Nbc3 f5 20. Kf1 b4 21. Na4 f4 22. Nb6 Rad8 23. Nc4 Bc7 24. f3 Nh4 25. d4 Rd5 26. dxc5 Rg5 27. c6 Bxc6 28. Nd4 Bd7 29. g4 Rd5 30. Ne6 Nxf3 31. Nxf8 Nxe1 32. Bxe1 Kxf8 33. Rxa6 h5 34. Ra7 Bd8 35. Bxb4+ Kg8 36. Ra8 Bc6 37. Rc8 hxg4 38. hxg4 Bb7 39. Rb8 f3 40. Be7 Rd1+ 41. Kf2 Kh7 42. Rxb7 {1-0 (42) Korneev,O (2638)-Nataf,I (2592) Evora 2006} ) (14. Bd2) 14... Rfb8 $1 {An important move. Black overprotects the bishop on b7, so now he is threatening to move his queen. White is forced to capture.} ({ Stockfish 14:} 14... Qxe5 15. Qxb7 Qh2 16. Qf3 Rae8 17. Be3 Nh5 18. Qxh5 f5 19. f4 Bxf4 20. Qf3 Bxe3 21. Rxe3 f4 22. Re4 Rxe4 23. Qxe4 f3 24. gxf3 Qxc2 25. Qe6+ Kh8 26. Qe2 Qc1+ 27. Kg2 Qg5+ 28. Kf2 Qc1 29. d4 h6 30. b4 c6 31. h4 Kg8 32. Rxa6 Qxb1 33. Rxc6 Qh1 34. Qe4 Qh2+ 35. Ke3 Qg1+ 36. Ke2 Qg2+ 37. Kd1 Qxb2 38. d5 Qa1+ 39. Ke2 Qa2+ 40. Rc2 $14 {[%eval 80,37] [%wdl 217,779,4]}) ({ Stockfish 14:} 14... Rfe8 $4 15. Nc3 Qxf3 16. Nxf3 Rxe1+ 17. Nxe1 c5 18. Be3 Nd5 19. Nxd5 Bxd5 20. Nf3 Bb7 21. Ng5 Rc8 22. Ne4 $16) 15. Qxd5 (15. Nc3 $2 Qxe5 $1 $19 {Since the bishop on b7 is defended, Black wins material, and the game.}) 15... Nxd5 {This position has been seen eight times in correspondence chess, with White winning four of the eight games. That is actually a huge winning percentage in a computer vs computer world where nearly every game is drawn, and it really speaks volumes as to how difficult Black's defense might be. It's a bit surprising to me that Magnus would voluntarily force this position straight out of the opening, but he may be more confident in Black's holding chances than I am.} 16. Bd2 {Stopping ...Nb4.} c5 17. Nf3 {[%CAl Re1e8] } Rd8 $6 {The first entirely unseen move of the game.} (17... Nb4 $5 {[%csl Gc2] This was the final correspondence game in the line. White eventually won. I suspect Magnus was in preparation up to this point and decided to play Rd8 instead. Stockfish 14:} 18. Rc1 Bxf3 19. gxf3 {[%csl Gf2,Gf3,Gh3]} Be5 { [%csl Gb2]} 20. Nc3 f5 21. f4 Bf6 22. Nd1 a5 23. Nc3 Kf7 24. Be3 $14 {[%csl Gc5]}) 18. Nc3 Nb4 {[%csl Gc2]} 19. Rec1 {The machines are definitely giving White a slight edge here. Still, it's so hard to turn something like this into a win. He is a pawn up and very solid, but it will be a nightmare to untangle his pieces. His rooks are stuck, the pawn structure is not great, Black has more space, a pair of bishops... still, a pawn is a pawn and Black has no direct threats. It takes a lot to play this position well with Black.} Rac8 20. Ne2 {[%CAl Rc2c3]} Nc6 {Now, if the timestamps are correct, Nepo spent two minutes on Bd2-e3, and then two minutes again on Be3-f4. Why not go there directly?} 21. Be3 $6 (21. Bf4 $1 {[%CAl Ge2f4,Rc2c3] This looked like a much better option to me. White will bully the d6-bishop back to f8 without allowing his kingside structure to get shattered. After} Bf8 22. Ne1 $1 { [%CAl Rc2c3,Ge1d3] White has everything protected, and he is ready for c2-c3 next to dominate the c6-knight. He looks pleasantly better to me, though it will take a lot of work to actually win the game.}) 21... Ne7 $1 {[%CAl Ge7d5, Rd5e3] Magnus sends the knight towards the f5- and d5-squares, where it will harass the e3-bishop.} 22. Bf4 $2 {This comes a move too late. Black will get a lot of play against the kingside pawns.} (22. Ne1 {Again, I'd like this move, but it seems like a tempo down compared to what it could have been. After} Nf5 {Black has quite a bit more compensation than he did before. It's very close to equal.}) 22... Bxf3 $1 23. gxf3 Bxf4 24. Nxf4 Rc6 {[%csl Gd6,Re6,Gf6,Rg6, Gh6] Around here, I was thinking that Nepo was really starting to lose the thread and that his position was getting dangerous. I was not running serious machinery at the time, and now that I am, it is telling me that the game was absolutely equal from here on out. Still, in human terms, I have to believe Black is more comfortable here. It feels like it will take a million years to set the queenside majority in motion, and White is one bad move away from his kingside collapsing.} 25. Re1 {[%CAl Re1e8]} Nf5 26. c3 Nh4 {[%CAl Rh4f3]} 27. Re3 Kf8 (27... g6 {[%CAl Gg6f5,Gg6h5,Ga1e1] The machines suggest this is best, as prophylaxis against Ng2. Still, I find it unimpressive. After} 28. Ke2 { White has all of his pawns well defended, and it is hard to believe he can be worse.}) 28. Ng2 {[%CAl Rf3f4]} Nf5 29. Re5 g6 30. Ne1 $2 {I think the biggest edge Magnus has over Nepo as a player is that his intuition for where the pieces belong in quiet positions tends to be better. White only spent a minute on this move, but it really strikes me as not best.} (30. Ke2 $1 {Why not centralize the king and get ready for Ne3 next? Black might even be a little worse.}) 30... Ng7 $1 {[%CAl Gg7h5,Gh5f4,Rf4h3,Gg7e6,Ge6f4] This move pair on move 30 is a perfect illustration. Ng7 strikes me as a very difficult move. The knight reroutes to e6, which is indeed a better square. It frees Black to advance his f-pawn to f5 and put his king on f6. It makes sense, but who looks at the previous position and thinks \"My knight on f5 is misplaced, let's move it back to g7?\" This is the kind of thing Magnus is much better than absolutely everyone at. If he can get more of these kinds of positions, I suspect he will have good chances in some of them.} 31. Re4 f5 32. Re3 Ne6 { [%CAl Ge6f4]} 33. Ng2 {[%csl Rf4][%CAl Gg2f4]} b4 $1 {I like this move a lot as well. If for no other reason, it gives me a chance to plug my book! In Small Steps to Giant Improvement, I wrote that if you have doubled pawns and the forward doubled pawn cannot be defended by another pawn, it often will become a serious weakness. This is the case here with the b3-pawn. Black is aiming to open the b-file, and touching the c-pawn would allow Black's knight to d4. Still, it should not be enough to win the game. White is a pawn up and well within the drawing margin.} 34. Ke2 $1 {I like Nepo's choice to give the pawn back and activate his king.} Rb8 {[%csl Gb3][%CAl Rb8b3,Rb4c3]} 35. Kd2 $1 (35. Rb1 $2 {Keeping the pawn is too greedy. After} a5 $1 {Black is ready for some combination of ...bxc3, ...Rcb6, and ...a5-a4. The b3-pawn will drop anyway, and White is only losing time.}) 35... bxc3+ 36. bxc3 Rxb3 37. Kc2 Rb7 38. h4 {[%CAl Ga1h1,Rh4h5,Rh1h8] Now material has been equalized, and White is ready to bring his knight to e3 and c4. Black's isolated queenside pawns are just as weak as White's isolated kingside pawns, and the position is balanced.} Kf7 {[%CAl Ga1e1]} 39. Ree1 Kf6 40. Ne3 Rd7 41. Nc4 Re7 42. Ne5 Rd6 43. Nc4 Rc6 44. Ne5 Rd6 45. Nc4 {There were not too many surprises in how game one played out. Magnus got the kind of position where I think he is most able to show why he is the better player, and he did play a better game once the players were on their own. That said, it is not all roses for the World Champion. I think it is a very bad sign for his preparation that he failed to equalize in his first black game. This is something that should be almost gauranteed. If Nepo can get more edges with white in the opening, and perhaps in more dynamic positions that suit his style better, I think he will get some very real chances. I think game two will be very important. I suspect Nepo will equalize easily and make a draw without any particular trouble. We certainly cannot draw any real conclusions this early, but if this happens, I would definitely start to worry if I was in charge of Magnus' preparation.} (45. Nc4 Rc6) 1/2-1/2